How Windsor-Essex would react to a nuclear emergency in Michigan

The false alarm involving a nuclear generation station east of Toronto raises questions about what would happen in Windsor-Essex should an incident happen closer to home.

Most residents in Windsor-Essex fall within the secondary zones of two nuclear plants — the Fermi 2 Nuclear Generating Plant in Michigan and the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Ohio. A small section of Amherstburg and Boblo Island fall within the primary zone of Fermi 2.

Chris Ensing/CBC
Chris Ensing/CBC

If something were to happen at those locations, plant officials would contact Michigan State Police, who would then contact the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre. Text alerts, similar to the one most Ontarians experienced Sunday morning, would be sent by the province.

Four severity levels

There are four different levels when it comes to the severity of a potential nuclear situation — from a minor incident that doesn't include the release of radiation, all the way to the degradation of the facility and an imminent release of radioactivity.

"That would require much more, of course, in terms of a response," said Amherstburg Fire Chief Bruce Montone. "So, our emergency operations centre would be open, for example, and then our emergency co-ordination officer would be co-ordinating with the province and with Fermi 2."

Windsor-Essex County Health Unit
Windsor-Essex County Health Unit

Within 15 minutes from the notification, the Town of Amherstburg would also be notified.

In addition to the Ontario alert system, Amherstburg has its own setup. Residents who signed up would received a call, email or text about a potential nuclear incident.

Potassium iodide pills for residents

People can keep potassium iodide pills in their homes, which help the body resist absorbing radiation.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit will also begin distributing potassium iodide (KI) pills again in the spring. Residents within the primary or secondary zones were able to order the pills on the health unit's website in the event of an emergency.

The primary zone is anyone within 16.1 km from Fermi 2. The secondary zone affects people within 80 km of the two U.S. nuclear plants that are nearby.

For any emergency, the fire department encourages everyone to have enough water and food supplies to last 72 hours.

"Because we may not be able to get to you right away," said Montone.